Dancing Shrimp - Gastro Obscura

Prepared Foods

Dancing Shrimp

Thai street vendors serve this spicy seafood while it's still moving.

In the Northeast Thailand region of Isaan, cooks often serve meat raw, doused in a spicy, salty, sour marinade of chili, fish sauce, and lime. Street vendors sometimes take the uncooked element one step further, selling a dish known as “dancing shrimp” (goong ten) from double-basket carts. On one side, seasonings await. On the other, a heap of small, translucent shrimp try in vain to escape from beneath a cloth. These shrimp “dance” in the same way Japanese dancing ice fish do, in that they’re eaten alive.

To prepare this salad, vendors cover the wriggling shrimp in a marinade of lime juice, fish sauce, and ground chili mixed with fresh mint leaves, lemongrass, and sliced shallots. Customers often enjoy the seasoned shrimp with a side of sticky rice, a staple of Northeastern Thai cuisine. Those who might be anxious about eating a still-moving snack can opt to eat each bite swathed in a betel leaf. The traditional wrap conveniently prevents diners from accidentally making eye contact with their meal. Should curiosity get the better of you, however, a standard serving offers dozens of creatures you can stare down before eating alive.

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